Tony Rosenthal (1914–2009)

Tony Rosenthal, who created Alamo, the eternally popular revolving black cube in Astor Place in the East Village of New York, as well as many other public sculptures, died on Tuesday, according to the New York Times. He was ninety-four.

In sheer visibility, Rosenthal occupied a leading place among contemporary artists. His five works of public sculpture in Manhattan, and dozens of similar works in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and other cities, guaranteed him a vast audience every week, yet he remained, if not obscure, much less than famous. “He reminds me of a character actor,” said Joseph K. Levene, his agent. “You know the face but not the name. With him, you know the art. ”

The Alamo was a favorite since it was installed in 1967 as part of the city’s “Sculpture in Environment” program. All twenty-five works in the program were intended to be temporary installations, but after residents in the Astor Place area petitioned the city, Rosenthal’s cube stayed.

Rosenthal is also represented in Manhattan by Rondo, 1969, the gleaming bronze circle in front of the New York Public Library’s branch on East Fifty-eighth Street; 5 in 1, 1973, at Police Plaza; SteelPark, 1980, at Eightieth Street near First Avenue; and Hammarskjold, originally installed at Hammarskjold Plaza in 1977 but acquired the next year by the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Rosenthal’s work has been included in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1999, Rizzoli published a monograph about his work, Tony Rosenthal, with a foreword by Edward Albee. A prolific artist into his nineties, Rosenthal found that one honor eluded him.

“He never had a retrospective, but that’s all right, ” Levene said. “He has one every day on the streets of New York.”